I often write about the need for balance in life, of the need to be aware of opposing views and events. Balance is actually very difficult to achieve in practice. It isn’t a completely middle path. That alone is an extreme that often compromises morality. Walking the severe middle can lead to a wishy-washy attitude when a solid stance is required. Rather, the Middle Way is a range between extremes. A person can move within that range based upon evidence and situation.
Extreme hard-edged views are rarely correct. The world is gray. Such views tend to create suffering in the holder or the people around them. They breed ignorance and judgmental attitudes.
Ok, this is a bit too esoteric. Let’s look at the idea of balance in context of relationships. Balance is actually a practical practice.
When we enter a relationship with someone we tend to exaggerate their good qualities and ignore the qualities in a person that we disagree or find irritating. Over time, these “bad” qualities we ignore can flip and become how we view a person at the end of a relationship. That is why break ups are often quite ugly. Both situations are extremes. While research shows exaggerating a friend or spouse’s good qualities can lead to long happy relationships, completely ignoring “bad” qualities can strain relationships. The balanced approach would be to recognize the qualities we view as “bad” such as chronic lateness, loudness, or perverse jokes. Recognizing these traits doesn’t diminish the good qualities. Both make up the person. Acknowledgment just allows us to be mindful of our reaction and thinking toward the “bad” qualities. That mindfulness allows us to control our behavior so not to hurt the other person. If both people in a relationship did this, the relationship would blossom with mutual consideration. If even one person practiced this both benefit from less stress and conflict.
We cannot control how people treat us or act. We can control our own reactions. Certainly it hurts when someone treats us poorly. However, lashing out is not a balanced approach. Balance in this situation means we notice we are hurt or upset about how we are treated. We then consider why the person treated us that way. Perhaps their mother is sick, and they are worried. Perhaps they had a bad day at work. Perhaps their back hurts. While this doesn’t justify their behavior, it allows us to moderate our knee-jerk reaction to lash out in retaliation. The balanced approach is to control our reaction. If the offending behavior is consistent, we calmly call it to the person’s attention. It is likely they didn’t realize they were acting injuriously.
When it comes to the touchy subject of politics, balance is a necessity. The entire conflict between Left and Right American politics is asinine. Both sides only wish the success of the nation and happiness of its people. The extreme hard-edged views are both wrong. Simplicity views of reality drop a lot of important nuances that can create conflict when ignored. Taking a compromised, balanced stance of mutual respect and cooperation lets people act. Extreme politics only creates division between parties and people. Division leads to often violent conflict. For example, with the Roe v. Wade issue the best compromise of the conflict (which is mainly used to generate votes for both parties) would be to let the right stand but educate people in birth control and self-respect. Both would reduce the abortion rate, which is the goal of the Right, and still preserve the civil right, the goal of the Left. Also it would reduce sexually transmitted disease rates and reduce health spending. Not to mention decreasing birth rate is beneficial for the environment and education quality of the nation. With the abortion issue, both sides have arguments grounded in morality and religion.
Balance is a stance of consideration. It is an awareness of how and why people think as they do. Extreme opposition to something is rarely the correct course. Reality is far too nuanced for broad black or white views. In relationships, extreme thinking can lead to arguments and separation. In politics, extreme thinking can lead to division and even war.
The best path to balance is having a true perspective of reality. Nothing exists in and of itself. Everything, from this screen to you exists as a sum of cause and effect. The computer screen exists because of the efforts of thousands of people mining, learning, molding, eating, and hundreds of other actions. You exist because of your parents, ancestors, society, time period, messages you consume, food, the environment, farmers, and millions of other factors. Everything influences everything else. You and I are intimately entangled by these words and millions of other gossamer threads. Everything we see, hear, think, touch, smell, and taste influences us. Realizing this and remaining aware of what influences us allows us to become more balanced and considerate.
Balance is nothing more than the practice of consideration. When we value others, we will listen and consider their words. We won’t react in hurtful ways. Extreme thinking is just thinking that lacks consideration.